Test II Science Study Guide for the GACE
Approximately 30% of the Elementary Education Test II (002) contains questions about science and teaching science at the elementary school level. In addition to standard multiple-choice questions, you may also find a few fill-in-the-blank and/or multiple-answer multiple-choice questions.
In this study guide, we list the content that is mandated for teaching science in Georgia public schools. As you work, you’ll need to use your memory or class resources to identify appropriate strategies to teach these concepts. This will help you during the test because the emphasis there is largely matching strategies to concepts.
Science is knowledge obtained through a specific process known as the scientific method. It involves a systematic way of observing and reasoning. The main characteristic of science is that the obtained knowledge can be verified by anyone because it is obtained through experimentation.
Scientific Investigation is the process that allows new scientific knowledge to be generated. It involves finding the answer to a question and communicating that answer using scientific language.
Scientific Inquiry Mindset
Being a good scientist requires having an inquisitive mind. Every scientific investigation starts with a question derived from observation. Something in a scientist’s environment catches their attention, such as the color of a flower, or the patterns in the weather, and they ask themselves a question. That’s why scientists are often compared to children. Children have inquisitive minds and ask themselves questions about nature very often. The difference between a scientist and a child lies in the next step of the scientific investigation.
After the question is formulated, scientists form a hypothesis, which is a logical and, most importantly, falsifiable answer to that question. Falsifiable means that scientists can design an experiment that is able to disprove the hypothesis. For example, scientists can reason that flowers are a certain color to attract more insects, or that weather patterns depend on the distance between the Sun and the Earth.
After the hypothesis is formed, scientists perform an experiment to test it. The results of the experiment allow them to draw conclusions, which are basically short statements that say whether or not the results of the experiment support the hypothesis. The last step is communicating the results, probably one of the most critical steps of any scientific investigation. After all, the investigation loses its value if no one knows it’s there.
To communicate results, scientists use aids such as images, graphs, equations, and tables that allow them to summarize and condense the information into a format that others can easily understand. For example, scientists can show a graph of the number of insects per hour that stop on flowers with different colors, or a table with the average temperatures per day in a particular area throughout the year.
There are certain ideas that are important for a scientist to understand before embarking on a scientific endeavor.
A system is a portion of the Universe that is the subject of a scientific study. Determining precisely the system in an investigation allows the researcher to understand the relationships between the system and its surroundings, and to narrow down the scope of the investigation. For example, the system can be tiny like a single flower, or big like an entire country or even a planet.
A model is a way to represent the system under study. Sometimes the system itself is too complicated to study, so models are developed, designed in such a way that the resulting data can be extrapolated to the original object or phenomenon. For example, when determining the orbit of planets, they are usually modeled as points, to simplify calculations.
Scientific investigations often look into how systems change. Change can be defined as the process that generates a difference in one of the variables that define a system (e.g. temperature). Changes can be reversible if the system can go back to the original state (changing the temperature of water), or irreversible if the system cannot go back to the original state (burning a piece of paper).
Scale, put in simple terms, is the scope of the scientific investigation. It can be microscopic if the system is too small to be observed with the naked eye (e.g. a bacteria), macroscopic if it can be observed directly (e.g. a flower), or megascopic if it’s too big to be observed directly (e.g. an entire planet). Measuring units often allows us to compare different scales.
In the process of scientific inquiry, scientists need to understand the relationship that exists between science, technology, and the environment:
Science is structured knowledge and can be influenced by technology as new technologies contribute to new scientific discoveries. It is influenced by the environment as scientific questions are often shaped by the environment (e.g. research in the field of climate science would be very different in a tropical country than in an arctic one).
Technology is often defined as applied science, and the relationship with science is very clear in this case. Even though technology can develop on its own, it requires basic knowledge from science as a starting point (e.g. the development of computers and circuits started with the basic scientific knowledge in the field of electromagnetism). The environment can influence which technologies can be developed and/or implemented (e.g. solar cells are more likely to be more developed in areas that receive more sun throughout the year.)
The environment is not only defined as the physical space where scientific and technological development occurs, but also the natural, social, and cultural values that exist in a given time and place. It can be shaped by science and technology, as development in these fields can change either the physical landscape or the mindset of people inhabiting it.
Earth Science is the branch of science that aims to study planet Earth. Since our planet is so complex and has many interrelated systems, Earth scientists usually focus on just one system at a time:
To understand changes in Earth’s atmosphere, it is very important to understand how its elements repeat in time in a predictable manner.
Day and Night
Earth rotates around its axis. The time it takes the Earth to complete one rotation is 24 hours. Earth always has one side facing the sun (day), and one side opposite to the sun (night). The duration of day and night depends on where the Earth is along its orbit.
Weather is the state of the atmosphere in a given time and place. It is defined by a combination of elements such as pressure, temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, and cloudiness.
Climate is the average of the daily values of temperature, precipitation, etc., in any given place during a long period of time, usually 30 years. It tells us information about the stational variation in an area, and the different types of climates that can be obtained from this information (e.g. equatorial, desertic, polar).
The environment is shaped by the day and night cycles, weather, and climate. The landscape, plants, and animals adapt to the conditions around them, as do people. The way of living, culture, and customs in the desert are different than those in the Mediterranean.
Rocks and Soil
A rock is any solid formed naturally on the Earth’s crust and is composed of one or more minerals. Rocks can be sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic. All rocks come from other rocks, they change into one form or another through a process known as the rock cycle. Soil is a mixture of several elements but its main component is meteorized rock. It can also contain water, organic material, and bacteria.
Rocks can be described by a set of physical attributes such as its density, porosity (empty space), adsorption (adhesion of substances in the surface), absorption (incorporating substances into the porous system of the material), capillarity (movement of water), and hardness. These properties are the result of the geological processes that rocks have undergone through history.
Fossils are petrified living beings or remains of their activities that are formed through a process in which the remains are first covered and protected from air by mineral substances. Then, sediments start to build up over the remains to form rock. After that, bones can decompose, leaving behind a void, or they can be substituted by minerals to turn them into stone.
Surface Features of the Earth
Earth’s surface is not uniform; it has a variety of shapes. The deformations of the Earth that generate surface features are caused by two types of processes.
These processes generate new surface features. Among them are volcanism (when molten rock reaches the surface of the Earth) and mountain formation, which increases the average height of the Earth and occurs due to the liberation of energy from the inside of the Earth.
These processes wear away the surface of the Earth. There are two types: weathering which reduces the particle size of rocks, and erosion which is when materials are moved from one place to the other (e.g. floods, landslides, sandstorms). These processes would have leveled off the continents long ago if it weren’t for constructive processes.
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